Bardsey Island with Lydia

Bardsey Island! Attracting artists, musicians and writers for centuries with its rich history of legends, being known as the “Island of 20,000 saints”, the claim to be the burial site of King Arthur, smugglers and pirates, we decided to do a day trip! Only 2.5km in length, you can easily walk around the whole Island and see everything is 4 hours. The fast boat picked us up from Aberdaron (North Wales) and we had a 30 minute trip to Bardsey, seeing seals, puffins and even a porpus on the way! 

Having a population of 4, (thats right I said 4) the Island is mostly cliffs and rolling green hills. The Lighthouse being one of the only man made structures in sight, it acts as the compass of the Island and can be seen from almost everywhere. I love lighthouses and am always searching for the perfect one to paint in a storm! Although I wouldn’t say I found this in the Bardsey lighthouse, it definitely interested me. I thought it would make the perfect setting for a children’s book!

There is a ruggedness to the Island in the untouched and remoteness, surrounded on all sides by cliffs and the ocean you feel very far away from the rest of the world. Definitely a great place to go for some space and peace! In May, colonies of birds are nesting, from puffins to red-billed choughs.

Lundy Island

We have recently returned from the most stunning trip to Lundy Island. Located 10 miles off the coast of north Devon, the Island is a peaceful habitat of wildlife, lush green walks and incredible views. It's a three mile walk from the northern tip to the southern end, where most of the 23 holiday properties are located. Each one has wonderful views, and we enjoyed every moment of our 3 day trip, with a stunning view of the ocean from the front room of our cottage.

We spent a lot of time photographing the middle part of the Island, where there's a beautiful area called Jenny's Cove - this is the area where most of the migrating birds hatch their eggs. We watched them circling the cove, fishing and nesting in huge numbers. It was amazing!

We had back to back sunshine for all three days, and enjoyed some wonderful sunsets by an area called The Cheeses (because of the rock shapes), and the battery, which used to be the Islanders way of warning ships about the rocks - before the new lighthouses were installed.

We have nothing negative to say about this beautiful Island - even the crossing from Bideford on their boat was fun. If you want an adventure and some peaceful walks in the Atlantic, get to Lundy!

Bardsey Island

Having spent some time on the 'Island of the 20,000 saints', we're completely hooked! If you've never been to the Island we recommend getting over with Bardsey Boat Trips - to visit the website click here Colin, the owner of the boat company was really helpful and very friendly.

It's a quick crossing and if you're lucky you may see a Porpoise, Dolphins and plenty of incredible birds circling the Island. This time of year there are thousands of birds migrating to Bardsey, giving plenty of opportunities to watch them as you walk around the Island.

 

If you go on a day trip you get approx 4 hours to explore before heading back on the boat, and that's plenty of time to see most things. However, to really soak up the tranquil nature of Bardsey you'd need to stay for a few days, and there are holiday cottages which give you that option. The Island has no electricity so don't bother taking your iPhone charger!

For day trippers we recommend taking a packed lunch and a flask of tea, as the place that serves refreshments opens for just a couple of hours a day. They also have a little gift shop too.

For more info and to enquire about holiday cottages, click here to visit the official Bardsey website. 

Snowdon - by Ellie

Arriving late at night for a remote trip is always exciting; stepping out of the car in the dark with no street lights to give away your surroundings, feeling the change from the London atmosphere to clean, crisp air and hearing the sound of a stream or brook nearby - you look forward to the morning when you can open your curtains and see where you are.  This time, the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales.  Adding to the excitement was the prospect of spending 2 nights at the ‘Prancing Pony Inn’ - well, thats what it looked like inside and out!  We half expected to see Strider smoking his pipe in the corner…

The plan for day one was to climb to the top of Mount Snowdon.  So, after another check on the weather for Snowdon that day we layered up our warm clothing, put on waterproof trousers and made sure we had enough water and energy-boosting food packed in our bags.  Carrying our luggage from the car the night before the air felt freezing and we were pelted with large hailstones so we made sure we took our flasks down to breakfast with us and filled them with hot tea in anticipation of the cold - and in the knowledge that the cafe at the top of Snowdon is closed throughout the winter months.  

When we reached the car park visibility was poor but we’ve been told that its not uncommon for weather systems to change suddenly on Snowdon and pass over.  This one did not.  Following the Miner’s Track we walked with the lake to our left which was dark and still, despite the rain and quite eery on a day like this.  With hoods up in the constant rain, the sound of raindrops pattering around your ears becomes all you can hear so we stopped regularly to lower our hoods and listen.  We reached the point where the map was leading us away from the path so after warming up a bit with some tea and a quick snack, we started to climb.  The drop in temperature was noticeable the higher we climbed and in places we were wading through patches of snow about a foot deep.  As we ascended higher and the terrain became more and more unstable under our feet, the strength of the wind increased.  This is when it started to feel a bit dangerous. 

We were conscious of allowing enough time to descend while there was still enough daylight to see by, we did not want to be scrambling down the mountainside in the dark in 40mph winds!  Cloud was all around us now.  Gripping to the side of a rock with what appeared to be a sheer drop below and the wind doing its best to throw us off, we all agreed it would be sensible to turn back.  The summit was completely covered with cloud now and had we reached the top there would have been very little to see.  We made our way back down the side of the mountain and it was a relief to be back on the path again!   The wind was so strong by the time we reached the car park, it was a real effort to get the car door open -  We made the right decision to turn back when we did!

The next day we returned to the same car park, the sun broke through the clouds and revealed a totally different place to where we’d been battered and blown about the day before!  The cold wind was still biting but it was moving the cloud along and creating patterns of shadow and sunlight across the hills and mountains.  We got a takeaway coffee from the Hostel and stood watching an eagle riding the wind above the hills for as long as we could. 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowdon - by Lydia

The colours of Wales are so great to paint and photograph. February brings a lot of of water to a place that already has it in abundance, making the green and purple shades of the land rich and lush. I used wet on wet and salt in watercolour’s to try and create the rugged textures.

 

Working alongside a photographer, I’v learnt to appreciate waiting for the sun and grabbing that all important and sometimes fleeting moment when the clouds part and transform the landscape. The Valley in Nant Gwyant was beautiful in the sun. I used three different mediums to explore the different tones and lines of the landscape in Nant Gwyant.

 

Snowdonia in February! Probably one of the most reckless ventures to make, we chose to climb Snowden during the week of Storm Imogen… yeah we did! We climbed through two ft deep of snow, ice, intense winds and a lot of low cloud whilst it was either snowing, hailing or raining continuously. So, a challenge! But none the less a fun adventure as always, helped a lot by Rohan thermals! My favourite moment had to be when we possibly went the wrong way due to thick low cloud impairing our view and we found ourselves on a tricky path.

The colours of Wales are so great to paint and photograph. February brings a lot of of water to a place that already has it in abundance, making the green and purple shades of the land rich and lush. I used wet on wet and salt in watercolour’s to try and create the rugged textures.

 

Choosing our first location - The Isle of Lewis and Harris by Ellie Orange

We chose the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides for our first remote destination.  “You’ve come to the right place” was the response from any locals on arrival when we mentioned our plans of travelling to Britain’s remote places this year, hearing this after all our planning and the long journey was great - we’d made a right choice!   This beautiful Scottish Isle ticks so many boxes for anyone in search of an adventure or if you’re just in need of space to breath;  still lochs, breathtaking mountain scenery, wildlife, rugged coastline and white sanded beaches which apparently rival those of the Caribbean.  As this was to be a Winter trip, we would see the Isle of Lewis and also Harris which is joined, in their raw and stark beauty with untamed weather and totally unspoilt.  It’s remoteness is even more apparent by the small number of inhabitants (who, by the way are the friendliest and warmest of people) and by the lack of holiday makers at this time of year.

As soon as you leave Stornoway (the main town on Lewis) the magic begins.  You are surrounded by its beauty.  The clean air that hits your nostrils feels so pure and pollution free after travelling from London - you just want to breathe as deeply as you can.  It was unusual, we were told, to experience weather that isn't stormy at this time of year.  Our first two days were wet, which didn’t stop us from going out to explore but this was followed by three days of snow, ice, crisp, freezing cold air and bright sunshine causing the frost covered ground to sparkle.  The views then became reminiscent of Norway or Iceland and at times the Italian Lakes!   Beaches are idyllic.  In one afternoon climbing a cliff top at Miavaig we saw snow-capped mountains, turquoise sea, one of the brightest rainbows which seemed to begin in the Atlantic and end in front of us on the seashore, with a Golden Eagle riding the wind above our heads.  Within the next half an hour we were pummelled by hail the size of tiny peas as we climbed.  A hood is a must in this weather - this hail was painful!

Some useful things we found along the way…

Travel Options:

To make the most of our time there, we wanted to travel by the quickest (and smoothest) route - at this time of year the ferry crossing from the mainland can be extremely choppy!  The only airline to fly there from London currently is British Airways so we chose this option and booked our flights (bargain prices are probably hard to come by) London Heathrow to Glasgow Airport, flight duration 1 hour with a connecting flight from Glasgow to Stornoway Airport on the Isle of Lewis, also an hour’s flight.  With a wait for connecting flights on both the outward and return journey, you could be looking at a full day’s travelling each end, if you choose to fly.  Once you get onto the Island we would highly recommend hiring a 4x4 from Stornoway Airport as the terrain can be rugged and if you want to travel off road or on the windy roads in the mountains, you'll need it!

We hired our vehicle from http://www.stornowaycarhire.co.uk - really great service!

We hired our vehicle from http://www.stornowaycarhire.co.uk - really great service!

Book your flight via BA - it's operated by Logan Air/Flybe

Book your flight via BA - it's operated by Logan Air/Flybe

Accommodation:

On Harris and Lewis there are the usual options for accommodation like B&B’s, hotels and guesthouses but a self catering cottage suited our needs as we were leaving early each morning tocatch the sunrise.  Being Winter, the rates were very reasonable and we enjoyed our stay at ourcottage by a loch on Great Bernera - a small island connected to Lewis by a short road bridge.

Great Bernera road bridge - approx 45 minutes from Stornoway

Great Bernera road bridge - approx 45 minutes from Stornoway

Callanish Standing Stones:

The historical site of Callanish, Gaelic Calanais is not one to miss.  The Standing Stones are over 4000 years old and have a stunning mountain backdrop.  Callanish has three sets of Standing Stones in its vicinity which are fully accessible so we were able to walk right up to them and watch the sunrise through the stones.  If you do this in January like we did, you are likely to need a hot drink after standing in the freezing cold and we highly recommend the Callanish Visitor Centre which is a short walk from the Stones.  Here you can warm up in the cafe, make the most of the free wifi and take a look around the little gift shop which of course offers a small collection of items made from Harris Tweed.  Out of season, many of the cafes on Harris and Lewis are closed and as it was particularly cold during our visit, the Visitor Centre became an oasis providing coffee and apple pie right when we needed it!  (photo)  We were welcomed back each day by the friendly staff and our experience was the same all over Lewis and Harris - such warm and friendly people.

 

Callanish stone circle

Callanish stone circle

Lydia making the most of the warm tea room for some sketching.

Lydia making the most of the warm tea room for some sketching.

Callanish Visitor Centre gave us a really warm welcome!

Callanish Visitor Centre gave us a really warm welcome!

Visitor Centre

Visitor Centre

Food:

As most cafes and restaurants were closed out of season, we weren’t able to experience much local food.  We did find some Hebridean sea salt from a small grocery shop on Harris which is infused with seaweed harvested from a loch very close to where we were staying so we still got a taste of the Island each evening when we used it back at our cottage.  This salt tastes very pure and has a real scent of the sea - using it in the kitchen now is a wonderful reminder of our trip.  

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In another small local shop in Tarbert, the port on Harris we bought a small pot of the most delicious maple smoked salmon flakes handmade in the Outer Hebrides in the estate kitchens of Amhuinnsuidhe Castle - this teamed with some smoked cheese and brown rolls from the same shop and sprinkled with the tiny pepper and salt sachets saved from our BA continental breakfast, all put together in the back of a 4x4 looking out the window at stunning coastland scenery… Not bad for a make-shift packed lunch on the road. 

 

Also worth mentioning in the absence of open cafes is the make-your-own tea machines that became a familiar and welcome sight in the local grocery stores - essential to thawing out before getting back on the road.

Towards the end of our trip we came across the Uig community shop on the far west coast of Lewis which provides a 24hr filling station, well stocked mini supermarket, post office and a range of facilities for the surrounding community - a launderette room and even a video conference and meeting room with broadband connection. It was great to see how this remote community, one of the remotest in the UK, had come together to form a development trust when the original shop was put up for sale and not only purchased the business to ensure that this lifeline stayed open but over time had added these life-enhancing services to keep the community connected - especially vital during the long Winter.  This shop also has a public toilet - when you are driving around a remote Island with only hills and mountains in view for miles you tend to make a mental note of all the places which offer toilet facilities! 

Ellie O.

 

 

Taking photos effectively in the Isle of Lewis and Harris - in all weather!

If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure with incredible coastal walks, mountain views, turquoise seas, white sandy beaches and stunning wildlife, then I have the perfect location for you. That description would normally remind us of the Caribbean, but somewhere of that exotic nature doesn’t require quite the same clothing to keep you warm and dry. Over the last week I have been travelling with my team in the Outer Hebrides, around the Islands of Lewis and Harris, photographing landscape images of its stunning, dramatic scenery for various clients. It’s one of those places that gives you so much, even whilst it blows you away with it’s powerful wind, delivering snow, rain and hail all within several minutes.

 

I quickly discovered that taking photographs on this location would require a lot of endurance, not only because of the changeable weather, but because the best views only come to those who are willing to get their boots on and walk – often uphill! And this island was no exception! There was one occasion when we arrived at Cliof Beach, on the Island of Lewis, and it was raining hard. We parked in the empty car park and ate our lunch whilst we waited for the storm to pass – and over the next few minutes it was extraordinary. The passing storm gave way to a low, golden sun and a beautiful rainbow appeared over the beach, revealing the vibrant turquoise colour of the sea which looked stunning next to the white sandy beach – and we were the only people to see it! That afternoon we climbed high into the hills above the beach to photograph the views and the setting sun, and our reward for walking through hail, high winds, snow, rain and a temperate of -4 degrees was a stunning scene beneath us which you can see in the photos below.

Clioff Beach - Isle of Lewis

Clioff Beach - Isle of Lewis

One of the questions we all have before heading out into extreme weather locations is ‘what to wear’ – especially when you’re faced with a variety of weather all on the same walk! I decided to wear Rohan gear exclusively for this trip – which included my socks, gloves, hat, base layers, jackets, trousers, t-shitrs and waterproofs. I opted for the Tundra Jacket as my main coat for its warmth – as it’s filled with duck down – and like all Rohan gear packs down really small, making it ideal for travel. I also wore the Elite Overtrousers and Jacket – and these are so impressive! When I’m in high winds and wet weather I need an extra layer on top as it genuinely keeps the biting wind out, and stops any rain getting through to my clothing. The nature of my work requires me to lay on the muddy ground to take certain shots, and this outer clothing makes it very easy for me to stay dry. It actually means I can keep shooting for longer. Some of my team chose to wear gear from other manufacturers and it was very noticeable how cold they were – often returning to the 4×4 to get warm and dry. So from now on, I’ll be wearing Rohan on all my shoots!


Chris O.